Markley’s Fevered Brain: Looking Ahead and Peeking Behind

Wayne Markley

Wayne Markley

by Wayne Markley

Since this week leads into a New Year, at least according to the Julian calendar, (I know people who follow the Jewish and the Chinese calendars so out of respect for them I will qualify this). I thought I would take the time to look ahead at what I would like to see from the comic book world and take a peek or two back at 2010 at what I thought were good things.

Marvel Masterworks Doctor Strange

Marvel Masterworks Doctor Strange

One thing I would like to see next year, and to be honest I have little hope for this, is good storytelling. What I mean by this is do not let the format dictate the story. Don’t do a story so it fills a nice trade or hardcover, as with almost every mini-series or major event (take your pick). Use as many issues as it takes to tell a good story. A small example of this is the Doctor Strange Masterwork Volume1. It reprints the early Dr. Strange stories from Strange Tales by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. If you have not read any of these stories you are missing out as Ditko was a true genus (Also check out the Steve Ditko Archives from Fantagraphics to see more of his amazing art and storytelling). These Dr. Strange stories are 10 pages, some are 16, almost all are self contained stories. Towards the end of this collection there is an eight part story with Dr. Strange verses Baron Mordo and Dormammu. Since this epic was told in 10 page increments, and it was SO unusually in comics from the 60s, it stands out as an epic event. The same is true of Fantastic Four #48-50, an almost unheard of three part story. Mind you it did introduce the Silver Surfer and Galactus, but is still stands out because it was special. An example of stretching a story to fit a collection is Time Masters: Vanishing Point, a very good story by the way, but it is six issues. Why? It makes a nice little trade collection. The natural feel of reading the story is it should be four or five issues. I really wish comics  next year would learn a a lesson from Jonah Hex and tell single issue stories with a special event now and then going over multiple issues.

Batman

Batman

Another thing I would like to see next year is a thinning of the herd. I am tired of trying to read ten Batman books or eight Avengers books or even three Green Lantern books. I am well aware that the publishers and the retailers need to make money and if a character is selling, let’s add more titles with the same character and make more money. But what is happening is there are so many books that the fans just give up on the character. Week after week I see customers drop Batman from their pull lists and when I ask why, they say there are just too many titles. Plus the stories have not been all that great lately, and key issues are consistently delayed and are getting later are later. Do fewer Bat books, and concentrate on good stories and get the books out on time, be it monthly, bi-monthly, or even bi-yearly. I hear the same thing every week with fans dropping Avengers titles for the same reason as Batman, there are too many titles. But to be fair, the Avengers are a much better read than Batman, at least in my opinion.

X'ed Out

X'ed Out

A third thing I would love to see in 2011 is the resurgence of the independent comic. At one time in the late 1990s, there was a wash of great independent comics, with Bone, Strangers in Paradise, Cerebus, and many more. These days there are almost only superhero books out there. To be fair, superhero books are the only titles that seem to sell. There are exceptions such as the Walking Dead, Chew, Echo, and one or two others. It seems the only place that experimentation is taking place is in web comics that then get collected by major publishers, if they are lucky. I did find it interesting that some of the former major players in independent vision, Charles (X’ed Out) Burns (Pantheon Books), Dan (Wilson) Clowes (Drawn & Quarterly), and David (Asterios Polyp) Mazzucchelli (Pantheon) all released new major works, all self contained stories, not drawn out with padded sagas, and mostly from mainstream book publishers.

In 2011 I am looking forward to more classic reprints. Three of the collections I am looking forward to the most are Disney related. The first is the complete Mickey Mouse from Fantagraphics. This will be a complete reprinting of the Mickey Mouse newspaper strips from the beginning. While some of their stories are politically incorrect, Floyd Gottfredson and the gang told some of the most entertaining stories that have rarely seen print. The next two are from BOOM! Studios whom I have complained about non-stop for their treatment of the Disney comics. They are going to do two exciting projects. First is the complete Don Rosa Ducks. This series will reprint all of Don Rosa’s Duck material in order, including a lot that has never been printed in the States before. The second series is the complete reprinting in sequence of Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories. There is a treasure trove of material here from Carl Barks’ Donald Duck to Walt Kelly’s Gremlins to Scamp and Chip N’ Dale and so much more. I cannot wait for these series to get started.

Now if only DC would collect Sugar and Spike. WAIT, they are! DC just announced the first Sugar and Spike Archive. At long last. A little side story. A number of years ago I was a judge for the Eisner Awards. During the process of picking the awards we had to pick someone for the Hall of Fame. I personally lobbied and pushed and groveled for Sheldon Mayer, the creator of Sugar and Spike, to be put in. After it was announced, Paul Levitz came up to me and said thank you for pushing for Sheldon Mayer as he was Paul’s mentor early in his career. Paul told me a number of great stories about Mayer. But even though I asked Paul over and over about Sugar and Spike (as well as Bob Wayne, Bruce Bristow and anyone else I could get to listen), I was always told, “Oh, that would never sell”. I am looking forward to proving them wrong, and I look forward to the Sugar and Spike Archive being the best selling archive ever. (I can dream can’t I?)

Rasl

Rasl

And my final wish for 2011 is that comic books are able to find new readers and expand their reach beyond the current shrinking marketplace. There are a ton of interesting comics coming out each month, and so many fade away without a second thought because they get lost in the flood of family titles (Batman, X-Men, Avengers, etc). I really wish when a comic fan goes into their local store, and there is not much that they normally read that week, they would ask the clerk (or e-mail me) and try something different. Just one issue. Be it Locke and Key or Rasl or Life with Archie. Just try something they normally do not read, and they might find that there are great books out there other than the 10 Batman titles.

Thunder Agents

Thunder Agents

Speaking of great titles that deserve a second look, this time out I would like to recommend Thunder Agents. When DC announced they were reviving these classic characters, I thought “Great. They are going to ruin another classic comic”, such as Archie’s Mighty Crusaders, which started out well, but quickly became another forgotten book and was cancelled. Or the First Wave books, particularly Doc Savage which has been a major disappointment to me. But with Thunder Agents I was wrong. So far, and we are only two issue into it, Thunder Agents has been an excellent series that I look forward to every month. It is a creative story with nice art.

As always, these wishes and dreams are my and mine alone and do not reflect the opinion or thoughts of Westfield Comics. Please feel free to contact me for suggestions of books to read at MFBWAY@AOL.COM. Happy New Year!

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